8th September 2012
So there's been a lot of fuss about Dredd for some time - he's not overly familiar outside of the UK, despite the attempted woeful blockbuster treatment by Danny Cannon with Stallone as the title character in 1995.
The question whether non-fans would take to a new movie has been mooted all over the internet, whilst Dredd aficionados have been hoping and praying that this version would do the character some much-needed justice, if you'll pardon the pun.
It has been reported that during the casting process, Karl Urban was told that he wouldn't be taking his helmet off at all during this film. His reply of 'I wouldn't be here if I did' or words to that effect, instantly drove the fanboys into pant-wetting delirium as it seemed that finally, the creative team had found an actor that was actually a fan himself, with no Stallone-sized ego to get in the way.
So did it work?
In short, yes. Gone are the Jean-Paul Gaultier designed shiny uniforms, gone are the flying Lawmasters (Judges' chosen method of transport) and gone is Rob Schneider's awful Fergie.
We're off to a good start.
Instead, we have a gritty, urban, dirty world with violence and grim realities, with foul language to match. If you're expecting the cartoony vision of Mega City 1 (one of the 95 version's only plus points actually) and the kid-friendly made-up cuss words of 'drokk' or 'stomm', you'll be disappointed.
In their stead, is a world where '800,000,000 million people living in the ruin of the old world', as narrated by Urban himself at the start, live in near-slums. Yes, there are massive city-blocks as you'd expect, but they're not like the bulbous, miss-shaped futuristic look of the comics or the original film - this time they're straight up high rises, and they're not clean. Neither is the language
And it works. With so many citizens living on top of each other, of course there's going to be poverty, of course it's going to be gritty, of course it's going to be hard-living, so it makes sense - it feels realistic. It feels plausible.
So don't expect a big tour of the city ala the Stallone version. Apart from a couple of wide angle pans of Mega City One, all we really see is part of the Hall of Justice and then the rest of the film is set in mega-block Peach Trees - itself allegedly named after the cafe where the movie's creative team fleshed out their vision for the story.
Don't expect any fan-favourite characters here - no Dark Judges, no Angel Gang, no Judge Child, no Rico, no Otto Sump, no Chopper (although the keen eyed may glimpse various references to one or two old school favourites along the way). Here we have a former prostitute-turned drug dealer called Ma-Ma dispensing her own form of justice and defending her territory from the two judges who have entered her domain.
The two judges in question? Dredd and Psi-judge rookie Cassandra Anderson, in her own hellacious and ultra-violent version of Training Day.
The creative team and the cast have done brilliantly well. Urban's Eastwood-esque voice and chin portray Dredd perfectly without any cheese in sight, and Olivia Thirlby plays the rookie judge, with her rabbit-in-headlights fear eventually turning to do-or-die fearlessness.
Lena Headey is great as head-perp Ma-Ma Madrigal and The Wire's Wood Harris aka Avon Barksdale is superbly type-cast as fellow drug pusher and Ma-Ma clan member Kay.
Whether the film is a success, paving the way for sequels and therefore greater exploration of Mega City One and the wider Dredd universe, only time will tell. This basic, stripped down film should serve as a starter for ten, appealing to non-fans and fans alike, and could be the surprise hit of the year.